Big Backlist Weekend with Jessica Scott & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is author Jessica Scott. She’s giving away 1 paperback copy of the Before I Fall (Falling Series, bk 1), a contemporary romance

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Fast Balls

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

 

Before I Fall 
(Falling Series, Bk 1) 
by Jessica Scott

Blurb:
Stay focused. Get a job. Save her father’s life.
Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah – a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family.

Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him.

A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Beth

My dad has good days and bad. The good days are awesome. When he’s awake and he’s pretending to cook and I’m pretending to eat it. It’s a joke between us that he burns water. But that’s okay.

On the good days, I humor him. Because for those brief interludes, I have my dad back.

The not so good days, like today, are more common. Days when he can’t get out of bed without my help.

I bring him his medication. I know exactly how much he takes and how often.

And I know exactly when he runs out.

I’ve gotten better at keeping up with his appointments so he doesn’t, but the faceless bastards at the VA cancel more than they keep. But what can we do? He can’t get private insurance with his health, and because someone decided that his back injury wasn’t entirely service-related, he doesn’t have a high enough disability rating to qualify for automatic care. So we wait for them to fit him in and when we can’t, we go to the emergency room and the bills pile up. Because despite him not being able to move on the bad days, his back pain treatments are elective.

So I juggle phone calls to the docs and try to keep us above water.

Bastards.

I leave his phone by his bed and make sure it’s plugged in to charge before I head to school. He’s got water and the pills he’ll need when he finally comes out of the fog. Our tiny house is only a mile from campus. Not in the best part of town but not the worst either. I’ve got an hour before class, which means I need to hustle. Thankfully, it’s not terribly hot today so I won’t arrive on campus a sweating, soggy mess. That always makes a good impression, especially at a wealthy southern school like this one.

I make it to campus with twenty minutes to spare and check my e-mail on the campus WiFi. I can’t check it at the house – Internet is a luxury we can’t afford. If I’m lucky, my neighbor’s signal sometimes bleeds over into our house. Most of the time, though, I’m not that lucky. Which is fine. Except for days like this where there’s a note from my professor asking me to come by her office before class.

Professor Blake is terrifying to those who don’t know her. She’s so damn smart it’s scary, and she doesn’t let any of us get away with not speaking up in class. Sit up straight. Speak loudly. She’s harder on the girls, too. Some of the underclassmen complain that she’s being unfair. I don’t complain, though. I know she’s doing it for a reason.

“You got my note just in time,” she says. Her tortoise-shell glasses reflect the fluorescent light, and I can’t see her eyes.

“Yes, ma’am.” She’s told me not to call her ma’am, but it slips out anyway. I can’t help it. Thankfully, she doesn’t push the issue.

“I have a job for you.”

“Sure.” A job means extra money on the side. Money that I can use to get my dad his medications. Or, you know, buy food. Little things. It’s hard as hell to do stats when your stomach is rumbling. “What does it entail?”

“Tutoring. Business statistics.”

“I hear a but in there.”

“He’s a former soldier.”

Once, when my mom first left us, I couldn’t wake my dad up. My blood pounded so loud in my ears that I could hardly hear. That’s how I feel now. My mouth is open, but no sound crosses my lips. Professor Blake knows how I feel about the war, about soldiers. I can’t deal with all the hoah chest-beating bullshit. Not with my dad and everything the war has done to him.

“Before you say no, hear me out. Noah has some very well-placed friends that want him very much to succeed here. He’s got a ticket into the business school graduate program, but only if he gets through Stats.”

I’m having a hard time breathing. I can’t do this. Just thinking about what the war has done to my dad makes it difficult to breathe. But the idea of extra money, just a little, is a strong motivator when you don’t have it. Principles are for people who can afford them.

I take a deep, cleansing breath. “So why me?”

“Because you’ve got the best head for stats I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen you explain things to the underclassmen in ways that make sense to them. You can translate.”

“There’s no one else?” I hate that I need this job.

Professor Blake removes her glasses with a quiet sigh. “Our school is very pro-military, Beth. And I would consider it a personal favor if you’d help him.”

She’s right. That’s the only reason I was able to get in. This is one of the Southern Ivies. A top school in the southeast that I have no business being at except for my dad, who knew the dean of the law school from his time in the army. I hate the war and everything it’s done to my family. But I wouldn’t be where I am today if my dad hadn’t gone to war and sacrificed everything to make sure I had a future outside of our crappy little place outside of Fort Benning. There are things worse than death and my dad lives with them every day because he had done what he had to do to provide for me.

I will not let him down.

“Okay. When do I start?”

She hands me a slip of paper. It’s yellow and has her letterhead at the top in neat, formal block letters. “Here’s his information. Make contact and see what his schedule is.” She places her glasses back on and just like that, I’m dismissed.

Professor Blake is not a warm woman, but I wouldn’t have made it through my first semester at this school without her mentorship. If not for her and my friend Abby, I would have left from the sheer overwhelming force of being surrounded by money and wealth and all the intangibles that came along with it. I did not belong here, but because of Professor Blake, I hadn’t quit.

So if I need to tutor some blockhead soldier to repay her kindness, then so be it. Graduating from this program is my one chance to take care of my dad and I will not fail.

 

Available for purchase at

Direct from Author | Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | B&N | Google Play | Kobo

 

About The Author

Jessica Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of stories set in the heart of America’s Army. She’s an active duty army officer and holds phd in sociology focusing on status and morality. She has 12 years prior service, earning the rank of SFC prior to commissioning in 2007. She commanded at Fort Hood twice and deployed as part of OIF/New Dawn in 09 with 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division.

She has written for the New York Times At War blog, War on the Rocks, Modern War Institute, PBS Point of View Women and War and has been featured in Esquire Magazine as an American of the Year in 2012. She has published 14 novels and novellas about soldiers returning from war.

She has compiled two nonfiction projects about her time in Iraq and the return home. She holds a Ph.d & Masters Degree in sociology from Duke, a Masters Degree in Telecom Management from University of Maryland University College, and a BA in Cultural Studies from State University of New York.

Fast Balls
(Balls To the Walls Series, #5)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:
Can two men with skewed self-images see their true reflections in each other’s eyes?

Jerry Wallender—firefighter, surfer, and occasional nude model—knows he’s no rocket scientist. So why does he keep choosing intellectual guys who make him feel dumber? He worked his buns off to overcome his reading disability and pass the firefighter’s test, and he loves everything about the job. Well, except for Mick Cassidy, the big, blond, hunky homophobe who harasses Jerry for being gay. But Jerry is smart enough to realize it’s not hate driving Mick, but the pain of a very unhappy upbringing.

Mick Cassidy, Firefighter Assist and Search Team, fights fires, but he can’t fight his attraction to the kindest, most generous—and sexiest—guy he’s ever met. Does that make him gay? If it does, he just might get himself killed by his gay-hating preacher father—and take Jerry down with him.

Grab your copy at
Kindle | iBooksNook | Kobo | Dreamspinner


Excerpt

Mick wrenched the bag from
Straight’s hands. The guy tried to pull back, but he was so off base. No one,
certainly not this pipsqueak white trash, was keeping Mick Cassidy from trying
to save the kindest, best man he knew.

Mick threw an arm toward
Straight, and the guy fell backward on his ass. Get out of my way.

He crouched, focused, breathed
deeply, and hurled himself through the flames. It felt like a mountain of fire.
Please God, let there be another side.

And there was. The solid wall
of burning hell thinned, and Mick fell through.

Jerry.

Quiet, still, broken like a rag
doll. One of his long legs lay at an odd angle.

No.
No. No.

He scrambled to Jerry’s side,
pulled the respirator from the bag, and pressed it over his face.

“Breathe. Breathe, Jerry.”

A new hot spot flared up beside
him. Damn!

He looked over his shoulder,
back the way he’d come. Wall of flame. No exit. Embers rained and a chunk of
the ceiling fell a foot away. He leaned over Jerry’s still body to shield him
and felt the heat closing in. So this is
it.

He stared down at the closed
eyes of the man he had rushed to save. No question. No hesitation. Funny. It
felt like a choice. A choice that had been no choice.

He looked up. Was God up? Up in
that flaming ceiling? Up in the roof that now opened to the sky?

He took a deep breath and bowed
his head. Okay, God, I spent my whole
life hearing what you love and what you hate. According to my father, you hate
the man who’s lying here, and I should hate him too, and leave him here to die.
If he’s not already dead.

He looked up, and sparks lit up
a disintegrating beam. It would fall real soon.

The
thing is, God, if you hate this man and love my father, your priorities are
screwed up. And if that’s true, I guess I don’t care so much about dying
because I’ll be going to hell, and I know it will be full of people I like.
People like Jerry.

I
sure wish I could have saved him, though. The world is better with him in it.

He looked down at the man who
had said he cared about him. That and being a firefighter were about the only
things he could think of that amounted to much in his life, but they were a
lot. He lowered his head to Jerry’s chest.

 

New Paperback Release: A LOVE YOU SO Anthology #SuperRomantic

 

A LOVE YOU SO ANTHOLOGY
(Books 1 & 2)
By Tara Lain

Hi! If you like print, this is a fun way to get to read the first two books in the Love You So series. Book 3, Love You So Special, is coming on September 28th. All of these books are very stand alone and can be read in any order, but you might like to check out why the new book is already a Bestseller at Dreamspinner Press, even though it’s still a month until it’s release.

Blurb:

Get swept up in two tales of love in all its hard, mad, messy, life-changing glory.

In Love You So Hard, Craig Elson is leading a plain and depressing life, despite being a good-looking guy and a talented strategic planner.

Jesse Randall aims to change all that by helping Craig find a new job, a new apartment, a new life…. That includes a new sex life. Craig wants to learn to top, and Jesse is happy to tutor him. But what happens when the lessons end and these two don’t want to say goodbye?

*****

Ben Shane is engaged to one of the wealthiest men in America, but he’s ready to give it all up for sweet Dusty, the quirky handyman who works for his company. But Dusty doesn’t think it’ll work. What could a rich, perfect guy like Shane see in him? He must be mad. Or is he just madly in love?

Find out in Love You So Madly.

Available for purchase at
Dreamspinner Press 

Making Scenes Irresistible! #JamesScottBell #Writersadvice

Hi. A couple years ago, I had the privilege of hearing  novelist James Scott Bell speak at my OCCRWA chapter meeting (we have a great chapter although I’ve moved away from the area, so i only get to participate online)). James gave us so much useful stuff, i can’t begin to share it all, but each of his ideas has had an impact on my writing ever since, so i want to share it.

First, James told us that we are writing about death. A room full of romance writers went, “Huh?” He said physical death is the realm of the suspense writer or the thriller (or romantic suspense I might add), but psychological death is the domain of the romance. In the romance, the lovers will be forever less if they can’t find a way to be together — and that’s big stuff! All scenes rise out of this death.

James taught us that every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome. This is something a writer feels instinctively but actually hearing it from a teacher helps us bring it into practice. And readers also sense that this is what makes a scene great. The outcome of a scene can be success or setbacks or it can be a success that leads to a setback. In fact, until you get close to the end of the book, a lot of scenes will lead to setbacks.

Then he shared the principle of SUES. No, not lawyerese! It stands for Something Unexpected in Every Scene. This keeps the readers on their toes and looking forward to the next scene. And to help us do that, he gave us the best tip! He said after you’ve written a scene, go back in and look around through the character’s eyes. What could the character see or notice that wasn’t there before? He told us we didn’t have to explain the item then. It could become significant later.

I love this tip and it helped me with a scene i’d written a few days ago and knew was kind of boring. It had some interesting details in it that would be important later, but the scene didn’t quite have a clear objective. When i came home after the meeting, i immediately went back to the scene and inserted a discovery — an object my hero finds that he doesn’t recognize. He wonders what it is, but that’s all. I’ve used this technique again and again, particularly in my most recent novel, The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean.

This is a simple tip, but a great one for spicing up a scene. For those of you anxious to have more of this valuable information, let me share the link to James’ fiction writing course HERE.

Thank you all for coming by!

Things Adults Notice in Dirty Dancing — #PatrickSwayze

Hi —

You may have read that Patrick Swayze’s birthday was this week — yes we do miss him — and i thought it would be fun to check out this video on things we might notice about Dirty Dancing when we’re adults that we missed when we were breathless kids watching the movie for the first (or tenth) time. See if you agree.

If you love Beautiful Boys, here are some new books to check out —
my first ever cozy mystery, The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean,
my upcoming romance, Love You So Special — 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the 99 cent SALE on Knave of Broken Hearts. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Video — Knave of Broken Hearts Only 99 Cents! Limited Time!

Who doesn’t love a great sale? In case you missed it, Knave of Broken Hearts is currently on sale for only 99cents for a limited time! Check out another great video from Enchantress Design and Promo!! LOVE it!!!

If you’d like more information on the book, check out this Page.

SALE! Knave of Broken Hearts only 99 Cents for a limited time!!

KnaveofBrokenHearts-400x600Woohooo KNAVE OF BROKEN HEARTS is on SALE for only 99 Cents!! This is the second book in the Love In Laguna Series, but completely standalone.

The sale is only for a limited time so grab your copy now!!

Kindle | Dreamspinner Press | Nook | Kobo | Amazon UK 

If you haven’t read KNAVE OF BROKEN HEARTS, below is the blurb and a nibble for you!

Blurb:

Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. 

How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

EXCERPT: 

Teaser #2 - Knave Of Broken Hearts

The door opened and Anderson came first, hopping straight onto the bed and settling on Jim’s pillow before Ian even made it fully inside. He smiled. “Hey, Jim, how was the date?”

That might have seemed like an easy, polite question, but it was a total minefield. “Fine. I gather you and Rico have struck up a friendship.”

His cheeks turned pink. “Yeah. He’s a great guy and has been all the places I want to go—like architecture school.”

That felt like a blow to the head. Jim stared at his feet. “Doesn’t that make him too old for you?”

“Thanks there, Mom.” He laughed.

Dammit, Ian needed more of a mom than the one he’d had. “Sorry.”

“Actually he’s only four years older. He’s this prodigy who started college at sixteen and finished architecture school in five years.”

“Talented guy.”

“I think so too.” Sappy smile redux.

Jim crossed his legs and gave his brother’s hair a swipe. “Not as talented as you.”

“He agrees with you.” Ian’s giggle reminded Jim of the guys outside the bathroom stall, and his cock gave a little jerk. Ian flopped on his back on the end of the bed, not distressing Anderson at all. “So tell me more about your date.”

“I’m gay.”

Ian sat straight up like a zombie. “What the fuck? You told me you weren’t.”

Jim caught his breath and tried to get his brain to catch up with his mouth. “I know. And maybe I’m not, but—shit, I don’t know.” That moment in the bathroom stall when he’d come into Ken’s hot, endless throat— “I just don’t like sex with women as much as I like sex with men.” How was that for the understatement of the century?

“Hang on. You’ve had sex with men?” Ian mirrored Jim’s position and stared at him like the head of the Inquisition.

“Uh, yeah. Sort of. No, I mean, once, and some other—sort of.”

“I think we better talk about this.”

“Now who’s being the mother?”

Stern gaze. “You need guidance when it comes to this. Talk.”

“I had sex with Ken Tanaka.”

“Sex sex?”

“Yeah and a couple of blow jobs.” Jesus, that did not begin to do justice to the situation.

“When he was here?”

“Uh, not exactly. Since then.”

“That may not make you gay.”

“What?”

Ian cocked a half smile. “That guy’s so gorgeous, he could seduce Pastor Rick.”

“I know, and I kind of agree with you. I don’t generally get hard-ons for guys, except for Ken.”

“It’s a ‘gay for you’ situation, then.”

“What’s that mean?”

“A straight man who falls for one guy and never gets tempted by any others. Some people believe in it. Mostly in romance novels.” He smiled.

Jim stared at the faded bedspread. “Except I can’t get it up for women anymore.”

“Anymore?”

“I was never Don Juan, okay? But I’ve had some orgasms with females. Just not lately.”

“What about when you were in puberty? I was little, but I remember you hanging out with girls and shit.”

Jim sighed. “Yeah.”

“Were you attracted to them? I mean, were you trying to get to first base and all that boy/girl drama?”

“No.”

“Bad sign. For your future heterosexuality, I mean.”

Cover Reveal: LOVE YOU SO SPECIAL

 

 

Love You So Special
(Love You So Series, Bk 3)

Hi everyone! Do you like the new cover? It’s by the marvelous Reese Dante. I’m so happy to tell you about the upcoming release of Love You So Special. This is the third book in the Love You So Series, but these books really are standalone and can be read in any order. I’ll tell you honestly, the characters in this book are a couple of my favorites and i hope they are for you too. You can preorder at Dreamspinner.

Blurb:
Can a man’s secret yearnings be revealed in a tank full of fish?

Artie Haynes knows he’s nothing special, with just-your-regular-brown hair, a solid plumber’s job, not much education, and a family that can barely get off the couch. But Artie has quirks—like his love of tropical fish, a landlord who’s a professor of existentialism, a passion for the amazing piano music he hears at a concert hall while he’s fixing the bathrooms—and the fact that he’s never come out as gay and probably never will. But when he’s hired to build a guesthouse for the pianist whose music enchanted him, Artie is swept up into an unimaginable world.

Francois Desmarais may be famous, rich, and revered as one of the world’s great classical composers and pianists, but he’s soothed and challenged by the inquisitive, stalwart, protective man in his back yard. When Francois’s terrible fear of crowds turns into a dangerous plot, Artie can stay in the closet or prove just how special he is.

Release Date: September 28, 2018

Available for pre-order at
Dreamspinner Press

 

 

 

The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean Video. Check It! #CozyMystery

Hi —

You likely know that I have a brand new release – –The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean— that’s my first cozy mystery and a fun leap into the world of “who was Shakespeare really?” Enchantress Design and Promo made this fun video for the book. Take a look.

 

 

 

 

If you’d like more information on the book, check out this Page

Release Day!! The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean & Giveaway!!

A cozy mystery with a tongue-tied nerd of a history professor tempted by a gorgeous graduate student and millions of dollars if he can solve one of history’s greatest mysteries — who was Shakespeare really?
 
The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean
by Tara Lain
 
Blurb:
Dr. Llewellyn Lewis leads a double life, as both an awkward but distinguished history professor and the more flamboyant Ramon Rondell, infamous writer of sensational historical theories. It’s Ramon who first sets eyes on a gorgeous young man dancing in a club, but Llewellyn who meets teaching assistant Blaise Arthur formally at an event held for wealthy socialite Anne de Vere, descendant of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford-who some believe was the real Shakespeare. Anne wants Llewellyn to prove that claim, even though many have tried and failed. And she’s willing to offer a hefty donation to the university if he succeeds.
It also means a chance for Llewellyn to get to know Blaise much better.
Not everyone thinks Llewellyn should take the case-or the money. Between feuding siblings, rival patrons, jealous colleagues, and greedy administrators, almost anyone could be trying to thwart his work… and one of them is willing to kill to do it.
When Anne de Vere turns up dead, the police believe Blaise is the murderer. Only the shy, stuttering professor who has won his heart can prove otherwise…
Available for purchase at
Excerpts
Blaise
said, “I’m so sorry, Dr. Lewis. I just don’t have good sense sometimes. I never
should have put you in such a terrible position. I apologize from my soul.”
“N-not
your f-f-fault.”
“Yes,
it is. I completely overstepped my bounds. I feel like I know you, and I acted
inappropriately.”
Llewellyn
took a breath. “Y-you tried to make me f-feel comfortable.” He spoke slowly and
got most of the words out. He didn’t want Blaise to take the blame.
Blaise
smiled softly. “Yes, I did.”
Anne
stepped closer. “Please don’t go until I’ve had a chance to tell you why I
came.”
He met her gaze, and his whole stomach clenched. No. No way. “I—I—”
“Please
let me tell you. You must know that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, is one of
the people most often named as the true author of the works of Shakespeare.”
Blaise
looked up at Llewellyn. “He is? I thought it was, like, Marlowe or Bacon.”
“No,
no.” Anne waved a hand dismissively. “The Earl of Oxford has long been regarded
as the most likely candidate to have written both the sonnets and the plays.”
“Yes,
he’s one of the top candidates, if you believe such things.” The voice came
from the sidewalk beside his car, and Llewellyn looked up to see George
Stanley, Van Pelt, the Echevarrias, as well as the whole crew of dinner guests,
with one or two defections, gathering there.
If I drive away, maybe I could just go to
North Dakota and hide for the rest of my life?
He swiped a hand over his face. Right, they love gay freaks there.
Anne
frowned. “Not one of them, the most
prominent among them, as I’m sure Dr. Lewis will agree.” He said nothing, and
she didn’t seem to care. She was on a roll. “It’s been a dream of my family to
investigate the earl’s position in this mystery for some time.”
I could run. Forget the car.
“That’s
why I’ve sought out Dr. Lewis. He’s renowned throughout the world for
uncovering new evidence in some of the great questions of history.” Her voice
rang out like she was in a Shakespearean play herself. “That’s why I want him
to prove beyond a doubt that my ancestor, Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl
of Oxford, is the real author of the works of William Shakespeare.”
Llewellyn
shook his head back and forth like a befuddled cow. “So many tr-tr-tried. C-can’t—”
She
raised her voice even more. “And I’m prepared to present the university with a
historical research grant of five million dollars in order to prove this claim.
One million to go to Dr. Lewis and the rest for dedication of the history
building to my ancestor, Edward de Vere.”
For
a second the whole street—the whole world—went silent.
Someone—maybe
Echevarria—murmured, “No.”
Then
Van Pelt’s voice rang out. “Well, that sounds like one of the most exciting and
worthwhile historical research undertakings I’ve ever heard.”
Running
wasn’t enough. Maybe he should vomit.

 

 

Well, damn. He slowly released a breath and took
another as Blaise Arthur appeared in the kitchen doorway.
Blaise
looked from Llewellyn’s face to his hand, just inches from grasping the handle
of a butcher knife. “Whoa. Hang on, Jim Bowie. Sorry to scare you. Your door
was standing open, and I was a little worried that you’d decided to run for
Alaska or hang yourself by one of Van Pelt’s neckties.”
A
laugh bubbled up from Llewellyn’s belly. That description so perfectly
described his options, he just kept chuckling until all three cats looked at
him like he was nuts. Marie relaxed her puffed-up fur seemingly one hair at a
time, flicked her tail, and returned to her chicken dinner.
Finally
he managed to stop laughing. “Uh, how d-did you know w-where I live?”
Blaise
cocked his grin to the side. “I followed you, and I must say, I had to move
pretty fast to do it.”
What the hell? “W-why?”
“I
told you. Suicide prevention.”
Was
he disappointed in that answer? He spread his arms. “A-as you see.”
“Feline-feeding
duty.”
“I’m
a cr-crazy cat lady.”
Blaise
leaned against the door, arms crossed, one nicely muscled leg cocked over the
other, and a sexy-as-hell grin on his face. “Neither crazy nor a lady so far as
I can see.”
“S-so
what do you want?”
“There’s
a challenging question. Just accept my mother-of-compassion routine at face
value and offer me a drink.”
He
still frowned. “B-beer? Wine?”
“Beer
would be great.”
Llewellyn
loved craft beers and took two bottles of Red Headed Stranger from his cooler.
He
opened and poured them into pilsner glasses and handed one to Blaise, who
stared at the bottle. “Whoa, exotic.” He sipped. “Delicious.”
“From
R-Reno.”
“I’ll
remember it.”
Llewellyn
gestured to the hall and led Blaise back to the big living room with its high
ceilings, elaborate crown moldings, and polished oak floors. He sat in an easy
chair and indicated that Blaise should sit on the comfortable couch.
Blaise
sipped and gazed around. “This is quite a house. How old is it?”
“N-nineteen
twenties or thirties.” Why was he chitchatting? What’s he doing here?
“Is
it a family home?”
“S-sort
of.”
“Are
you gay?”
“What?”
Llewellyn frowned. “Uh, y-yes. E-everyone knows th-that.”
“Yes,
I read it, but I wanted to ask.” He grinned.
The
cats padded in, Marie making a straight shot to Llewellyn’s lap, where she
turned and stared at Blaise while washing her face and paws.
“She’s
the formidable one.”
“Oh
y-yes.”
“What’s
her name?”
“Marie
Antoinette.”
He
laughed. “Perfect. Marie, I’ll make it my personal objective to woo you to my
side.”
That
implied some long-term association.
Blaise
took another big mouthful. “It looks like you have a nice life.” He set the
still partly full glass on the coffee table and stood. “I’m glad. Thanks so
much for the beer.” He walked toward the door. What the hell?
Llewellyn
stood, getting a squawk from Marie. “W-why did you ask if I-I’m gay?”
Blaise
glanced back over his shoulder. “Because I am.”
“I-I
know.” Jesus, why did I say that?
“Am
I that obvious?” But he smiled.
Llewellyn
shrugged. “No. So?”

Blaise laughed. “See you at work.”

 

About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Erotic Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance,  Best Gay Characters, and more. Readers often call her books “sweet,” even with all that hawt sex, because Tara believes in love and her books deliver on happily-ever-after. In addition to writing dozens and dozens of romance novels,  Tara also owns an advertising and public relations firm. Her love of creating book titles comes from years of manifesting ad headlines for everything from analytical instruments to semiconductors. She does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. Together with her soulmate husband and her soulmate Dog, she recently realized a vision to live where there were a lot more trees and a lot fewer cars by moving to Ashland, Oregon. She hasn’t stopped smiling since.
You can find Tara at Lain

Big Backlist Weekend with Molly Harper & Tara Lain #2giveaways #Romance

Welcome to Big Backlist Weekend! This is a special event I post every month or so where I ask a wonderful author to come and join me in giving away a copy of an ebook from their backlist.

My guest today is an author I’m a huge fan of, Molly Harper! I’ve grown fangs and run with many a naked werewolf in her company. Her newest series Southern Eclectic is awesome!! She’s giving away 1 paperback copy of the first book in the series, Sweet Tea And Sympathy!

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Return of the Chauffeur’s Son! This is as close as i get to romantic comedy. I call it champagne romance.

Here’s your chance to win one or the other of our books. Just enter on the Rafflecopter below and watch for Big Backlist Weekend with special guests every month.

Remember to grab your copy of Molly’s SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY at Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible | Nook | Kobo

 

Sweet Tea and Sympathy
(Southern Eclectic) 
by Molly Harper

Blurb:

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

Excerpt

 MARGOT CARY LEANED her forehead against the warm truck window as it bounced along the pitted Georgia highway. She closed her eyes against the picturesque landscape as it rolled by. Green, green, green. Everything was so effing green here.

GREEN WAS NOT her lucky color. It certainly hadn’t blessed the opening of the botanical garden’s newly completed Wesmoreland Tropical Greenhouse. Maybe it had been a mistake to carry the green theme so far. Green table linens, green lanterns strung through the trees, down to emerald-green bow ties for the catering staff. Weeks later, she still remembered the terrified expression on one waiter’s face when she caught him by the arm before he carried his tray of crudités into the party space.

Despite her glacial blond beauty, the younger man practically flinched away from her touch as she adjusted his tie. Margot would admit that she’d been a bit . . . demanding in organizing this event. She had taken every precaution to make sure that this evening’s black-tie opening was as smooth as Rosaline Hewitt’s recently Botoxed brow. She’d commissioned a silk-leaf embroidered canopy stretching from the valet station to the entrance to prevent the guests’ hairstyles and gowns from being ruined by the summer rain. She’d researched each invitee meticulously to find out who was gluten-free or vegan and adjusted the menu accordingly. She’d arranged for two dozen species of exotic South American parrots to be humanely displayed among orchids and pitcher plants and a flock of flamingos to wade through the manufactured waterfall’s rocky lagoon.

She was not about to have all of that preparation undone by a cater waiter who didn’t know how to keep a bow tie on straight.

“Go,” Margot said, nodding toward the warm, humid air of the false tropical jungle. He moved silently away from her, into the opulently lit space.

Margot turned and tried to survey the greenhouse as it would appear to the guests, the earliest of which were already filtering into the garden, oohing and aahing. Calling it a greenhouse seemed like an understatement. The glass-paneled dome reached four stories into the sky, allowing the tropical plant specimens inside plenty of space to stretch. Carefully plotted stone paths wound through the flower beds, giving the visitor the impression of wandering through paradise. But knowing how much Chicago’s riche-est of the riche enjoyed a nice soiree, the conservators had been smart enough to add a nice open space in the middle of the greenhouse to allow for a dance floor. She’d arranged elbow-high tables around the perimeter, covered in jewel-tone silk cloths. Gold LED lights cast a hazy sunset glow over the room, occasionally projecting animated fireflies against the foliage. And since society’s ladies would never do something so inelegant as visit a buffet, the waiters had been informed to constantly circulate with their trays of canapés in a nonobvious, serpentine pattern around the enormous shrimp tower in the middle of—

Wait.

“No,” Margot murmured, shaking her head. “No, no, no.”

She snagged the next waiter to walk through the entrance and took his tray. The sweet-faced college kid seemed startled and alarmed to have the chief planner for this event grabbing him by the arm. “You, get two of your coworkers and very quickly, very quietly, very discreetly get that shrimp tower out of here. If anyone asks, just tell them that you’re taking it back to the kitchen to be refilled.”

The poor boy blanched at the brisk clip to her tone and said, “But—but Chef Jean was very specific about—”

“I don’t care what Chef Jean was specific about,” she said. “Get it out of here now.”

The waiter nodded and pulled away from her into the gathering crowd.

Margot stepped forward into the fragrant warmth of the greenhouse, careful to keep her expression and body language relaxed. She was aware that, while professionally dressed in her black power suit, she was not nearly as festive as the guests in their tuxedos and haute couture gowns, but she was perfectly comfortable. She’d attended hundreds of events like this growing up. She would not be intimidated by some plants and a pretentious wannabe Frenchman. She pressed the button of her earbud-size Bluetooth and whispered, “This is Margot. I need to speak to Jean.”

She could tell by the way her words were echoing in her own ear that the head chef of Fete Portable had taken his earpiece out—despite Margot’s repeated requests to keep a line of communication open with her—and set it on the stainless steel counter in the makeshift kitchen. She blew out a frustrated breath. Jean LeDille was not her preferred caterer for high-profile events, but the de facto hostess of tonight’s opening—Melissa Sutter, first lady of Chicago and head of the botanical garden conservators’ board—had insisted on using him. So far he’d been temperamental, resistant to the most basic instruction, and a pain in Margot’s Calvin Klein–clad ass. And when she was done with this event and had secured her partnership at Elite Elegance, she would have Jean blacklisted from every Chicago party planner’s contact list. Theirs was a close-knit and gossip-driven circle.

Someone in the kitchen picked up the earbud and said, “Ms. Cary, he says to tell you he’s unavailable.”

Margot gritted her perfect white teeth but managed a polite smile to the head of the opera board and his wife as they passed. Jean wouldn’t be able to get a job making a clown-shaped birthday cake by the time she was done with him.

“So I guess I’ll just have to make myself available to him, then.”

Margot’s assistant, Mandy, a sleek brunette who reminded Margot of a Russian wolfhound in four-inch heels, fell in step behind her. “Make sure that tower is gone. You have two minutes.”

“On it,” Mandy snapped, and peeled off after the hapless waiters.

Margot pushed through the heavy plastic curtain that separated the greenhouse from the kitchen tent. Far from the muted music and golden-green light of the greenhouse, the tent was ruthlessly lit with fluorescents and heating lamps. Jean’s shouts filled the air, demanding that the canapé trays be restocked tout de suite.

Jean was a stocky, balding man with thick, dark eyebrows and an unfortunate mustache. His chef whites were splattered with various sauces and he sneered—actually sneered—at Margot as she walked into his kitchen.

“What are you doing in ma’ kitchen?” he demanded in an exaggerated French accent. “I tell you before. No outside staff when I am creating.”

“Jean, would you explain to me why there is a shrimp tower in the middle of my venue?”

“I was overcome by the muse this morning. I decide to build you a shrimp tower. Only four hundred dollars extra. I do you favor, eh?”

“Wait. Is that shrimp salad on the crostini?” Margot asked, stopping a waiter before he left with his tray of appetizers. “Because we agreed on poached quail eggs. Mrs. Sutter, the hostess of tonight’s event, whom you’ve cooked for on several occasions, is allergic to shrimp. As in, she can’t even be around people who are eating shrimp because she might come into contact with the proteins. I wrote it on everything. Everything.”

Margot motioned to the field refrigeration unit where she had taped a neon-green sign that read PLEASE REMEMBER THAT MRS. SUTTER IS HIGHLY ALLERGIC TO SHRIMP.

Jean waved her off. “I do not read the cards. My sous chef reads the cards.”

“Jean. Drop the French accent that we both know is about as real as that ridiculous hairpiece and tell me what you are feeding the mayor’s wife.”

The chef, whose real name was John Dill, shrugged and in his natural, Midwestern voice said, “The market didn’t have enough quail eggs, so I took the shrimp. It’s not a big deal. If she’s allergic, she’ll know not to touch it. People make too much of their food allergies anyway.”

“It’s just lovely to know that someone with that attitude is making food for innocent bystanders,” Margot snapped. She called out loud enough for the entire kitchen staff to hear, “Eighty-six the shrimp crostini. Throw them out and take the bags out of the tent. All of you wash your hands—twice—and any utensils that have touched the shrimp—also twice. I need one uncontaminated staff member to make a special shrimp-free plate of food for Mrs. Sutter so we can feed her tonight without poisoning her. Get it done, now.”

Jean was seething, but Margot didn’t give a single damn. Mandy popped through the plastic curtain, a stricken expression on her angular face.

“There’s a problem with the tower,” she said. “It’s too heavy to move. But they’re working on disassembling the shrimp trays to bring them back in before people notice.”

“I don’t care if it’s made of concrete. I need it—” Margot’s response was cut short by a strange honking ruckus from the greenhouse, followed by screams and crashing . . . and running?

One of Margot’s golden eyebrows rose. “What is that?”

Mandy grimaced. “Don’t flamingos eat shrimp?”

Margot dropped her clipboard and her headset to the ground and scrambled through the plastic curtain. “Oh, no.”

The flamingos were making a run at the shrimp tower, pink wings flapping, pecking at the waiters who were attempting to remove the shellfish. The guests were falling all over one another trying to get away from the shrimp-frenzied birds and in the process had knocked over several cocktail tables and the votive candles on top. Those candles had set fire to the tablecloths, which set off the greenhouse’s sprinklers and alarms. The parrots did not appreciate the clanging alarms or the sudden scramble of people. They broke free from their perches and were flying around the greenhouse, leaving “deposits” on the guests in protest. Oh, and Mrs. Sutter was purple and covered in hives.

Margot gave herself ten seconds to surrender to the panic. She let her stomach churn. She let her ice-cold hands shake. She allowed herself to hear everything and nothing all at once. In her head, she saw her career going up in flames with the tablecloths. The promotion and partnership she’d worked for were disappearing before her eyes in puffs of smoke. Everything she’d planned, everything she wanted in life, was slipping out of her fingers because of some misplaced shellfish.

And then Margot put a lid on her anxiety and did what she did best. She put out fires metaphorical and literal. She called an ambulance and the fire department, grabbed the EpiPen from Mrs. Sutter’s purse, and jabbed her in the thigh. Hell, she even took off her pumps and wrangled the shrimp-seeking flamingos back into the lagoon.

But the damage was done. The news photographers who’d prepared themselves for a boring evening shooting glamour poses gleefully snapped photos of society matrons in soaked designer gowns and runny makeup dashing for shelter from the sprinklers. A guest who happened to be a member of PETA started screaming at Margot for mistreating the flamingos while trying to herd them away from (attacking) the guests. And a conservators’ board member handed her an invoice for the thousands of dollars in rare orchid species that had been trampled in the melee.

The next morning, an exhausted Margot sat slumped in the offices of Elite Elegance as her boss, Carrington Carter-Shaw, slapped newspapers with headlines like FLORAL FIASCO and REAL-LIFE ANGRY BIRDS! on her desk. One particularly cheeky tabloid had printed a picture of Margot beating the smoldering remains of a matron’s hairpiece with a wet napkin under the headline FLOWER POWER F***-UP!

“How could you let this happen?” Carrington cried, her carefully blown-out dark hair dancing around her heart-shaped face. “We’re the laughingstock of the Chicago social scene. Guests from last night are trying to stick us with dry-cleaning bills, medical bills—Michelle Biederman claims a parrot flew off with her two-karat diamond earring! The mayor’s office has contacted us—twice—to call our business license into question. I had to move three guys from the mail room just to handle the incoming phone calls. Margot, you’re my star! My rock! You can make a backyard potluck birthday party look like a black-tie gala. You’re the planner I call when it’s clear in the first meeting that the client is absolutely batshit insane. What happened?”

Margot wanted to blame the untested Chef Jean and his “inspired” impromptu shrimp, but ultimately the fault rested with her. She’d lost control of the party. She’d lost control of the food. She’d lost control of two dozen species of birds.

“I don’t know,” Margot mumbled, shaking her head. She took a prepackaged stain wipe out of her Prada clutch and dabbed at a questionable blotch on her lapel. “It all happened so quickly. I—I know, at this point, the partnership is off the table—”

“Partnership?” Carrington scoffed. “Honey, I can’t even keep you on staff. You’re professional poison. I’m going to have to fire you and do it in a very public manner—I mean, picture the polite urban equivalent of putting you in stocks in the town square and pelting you with rotten fruit—so people know that our company is safe to use again.”

Margot let loose a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. She nodded. In some way, she’d been expecting this. She knew it would be rough for a while and she would have to put off some bullet points in her five-year plan, but she could handle this. She had contingency funds and a secret contact list of important people who owed her favors.

Margot cleared her throat and tried to straighten her rumpled suit jacket. “And what, you’ll shuffle me out to one of the branch offices in the suburbs and I’ll organize bar mitzvahs until this all blows over?”

Carrington frowned. “No, Margot. Fired. As in employment permanently terminated. The partners are willing to give you a three-week severance in recognition of the work you’ve done for us. And I’ll write you a positive recommendation letter. But that’s it.”

“But I’ve worked here for almost ten years. I’ve put in eighty-hour weeks. Ninety during the holiday party season. I don’t have a social life because I’m always here. I haven’t been on a date in more than eight months.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why you get the third week of severance pay. Really, Margot, I think we’re being more than generous here, considering the fallout from this fiasco.”

As Margot walked out of Elite Elegance’s plush offices with a banker’s box full of her belongings and a severance check in hand, she told herself that it would be okay, that this was what backup plans were for, that this situation couldn’t possibly get worse.

It got worse.

Stage one of Margot’s plan had been to retreat to her apartment to regroup, polish up her résumé, and compose a list of companies she could apply to, but her unit’s new tenants kept stopping by to measure for new flooring and curtains. Just a week before the “Floral Fiasco,” she’d given up her lease in preparation to move to a newly purchased condo in Wicker Park. Between the down payment she’d saved and the raise she was supposed to get with her promotion, she would have been able to afford it. But the day after she was fired, she’d gotten a call from the mortgage officer handling her condo loan. Mrs. Meade had seen the news about the greenhouse incident and her firing, and informed Margot that without a job, the mortgage company could not guarantee her loan. The only good news was that the mortgage company was willing to return 70 percent of her down payment. So now, with her lease running out and her condo being sold to someone else, Margot was effectively homeless.

And still, it got worse.

Without a job, she couldn’t get an apartment in a decent building. And the buildings where she could get an apartment were not places where she wanted to live. And she could not find a job. Anywhere. Receptionists laughed and hung up when she called the best event-planning companies in Chicago. Receptionists from second- and third-tier event-planning companies in Chicago also laughed at her. She couldn’t get the companies in New York or Los Angeles to call back. Hell, she couldn’t get companies in St. Louis to return her calls. She still had her savings, but thanks to Mastercard and her monthly expenses, they were dwindling quickly.

Her friends weren’t returning her calls or messages, either. And she couldn’t turn to her adoptive father for help. Gerald hadn’t spoken to her since her mother’s funeral three years before. And she’d promised herself that she wouldn’t take a dime after her parents made their last tuition payment. She still had the shreds of her pride.

The shreds were costing her. She was three days away from living in the storage unit where she’d moved her stuff, sitting at her breakfast bar—because it was the only table space she had left—actually filling in a JobLink profile, when a Skype notification popped up on her laptop. The message said it was from “hotsy-totsy45.”

Margot frowned. She used this account for after-hours and long-distance consultations with clients. She definitely would have remembered a client nicknamed hotsy-totsy45. Leaning back from the screen, she clicked decline.

Blowing a long breath out through her nose, Margot continued to fill out the JobLink form. Another notification from hotsy-totsy popped up.

“Still a ‘no,’ creep,” she muttered, clicking decline again.

But hotsy-totsy would not be denied. And given the amount of chardonnay Margot had consumed just for the sake of not having to move it out of her apartment, it wasn’t surprising that her hand slipped a bit and she clicked accept.

“Damn it!” she grunted, trying to close the chat window before it opened. She did not want to witness the latest in creative junk shots currently being embraced by the Internet’s weirdos. But instead of the expected random nudity, Margot’s screen was filled with the face of an adorable little granny lady with a cloud of snow-white hair and Dalmatian-print reading glasses balanced on the tip of her nose.

“Hello?”

A brilliant smile lit up the granny lady’s face, showing teeth too white and too even to be original parts. “Well, hello there! It took me a little while to track you down, but here you are!” the lady crowed in a Southern drawl so pronounced that Margot had trouble processing what she was saying at first. “You look just like I thought you would. A lot like your mama, mind, but you got a bit of your daddy in there, too. Of course, I thought you’d be a little more polished up, but I’m guessing you haven’t left your house in a while.”

Margot caught sight of her appearance in the little preview window in the corner of the screen and winced. She looked like someone who was unemployed. She was wearing a grubby Northwestern sweatshirt. Her carefully highlighted blond hair was piled into a haphazard topknot. She was wearing her thick-rimmed black glasses, making her hazel eyes look owlish and too big for her face. She hadn’t worn makeup in days, so her skin had taken on a cheesy appearance in the blue light of the computer screen.

“I’m sorry, do you know my parents?” she asked. As friendly as this lady might be, she didn’t exactly look to be Linda and Gerald’s speed. Linda McCready, a nobody from nowhere with traces of a Low Country accent and a toddler daughter in tow, had managed to snag Gerald Cary, MD, while she was working as the records clerk in the hospital where the handsome British expat practiced surgery. She had spent considerable time and energy clawing her way into the upper middle circles of Chicago society. Linda Cary would have gone blind before she wore Dalmatian reading glasses.

“Well, your mama and I were never close, but your daddy is my nephew, so I guess you could say I know that sad-sack face of his pretty well,” the woman said with a chuckle.

Margot’s jaw dropped. Her stepfather had adopted her when she was four years old. But considering that he was from just outside London, it was unlikely he had relatives in Georgia. “You know Gerald?”

“No, honey, your daddy. What do you young people call it—your ‘biological father.’ Stan McCready. I’m your great-aunt Tootie.”

“Beg pardon?” Even Margot couldn’t be sure which part she was questioning—the “biological” bit or the ridiculous nickname. Even in the South, people knew better than to name their children Tootie, right?

“I’m Stanley McCready’s aunt, honey.”

Stanley McCready. Margot slumped on her bar stool. She’d never met her father’s family. Linda had made no secret of her “unfortunate” first marriage to a man named McCready, but she’d referred to it as a youthful mistake she’d corrected when Margot was barely three years old. Stanley was a heavy drinker, Linda had insisted, a train wreck of a man who couldn’t provide for them. After Linda left, he’d almost immediately given up his rights to his daughter without so much as a court motion.

Margot didn’t know where he lived. She couldn’t remember what he looked like. Her mother had never even shown her a picture, insisting that it would be disloyal to Gerald. Neither Mr. McCready nor his family tried to contact her in thirty years, which was fine with Margot. She didn’t have room in her life for an irresponsible drunk who couldn’t be bothered to send so much as a birthday card. And frankly, she resented the idea that her father’s family only reached out now, when she was at her lowest.

And it wasn’t even her father, just some wacky great-aunt with a ridiculous name.

“You know, I thought you’d have that nasal-sounding Chicago accent, but you sound like you should be having tea with the queen. So proper and prim. I suppose that’s your mama in ya. Did she make you take those diction lessons?”

“No, I just like using all the letter sounds.”

The woman snorted a bit and said, “My point is, honey, I’ve been looking for you for weeks now, after I saw the video of your party on YouTube. I spotted you and knew you had to be Linda’s daughter.”

“YouTube?” Margot winced. “How many hits did it get?”

“Hundreds of thousands! Honey, you’re your own meme!” Tootie exclaimed. Suddenly, a window popped up in the corner of Margot’s screen, showing one of the press photos of Margot herding the flamingos away from the shrimp tower with giant print reading NO CAN HAZ SHRIMP, FLAMINGOZ! NO CAN HAZ!

Margot buried her face in her hands. She’d spent most of her twenties carefully policing her own social media posts so as not to damage her professional reputation. And now this. Also, her great-aunt seemed to be awfully tech savvy for a woman who looked to be in her eighties.

“Well, thanks for contacting me and mocking me with age-appropriate Internet humor . . . and dredging up a bunch of unresolved emotional issues,” Margot muttered. “But I’m going to have to sign off now.”

“Oh, sure, honey, I’m sure you’re busy with your job search. How’s that going?”

“I’ve submitted quite a lot of résumés,” Margot said, trying to sound casual.

“Any interviews yet?” Tootie pressed.

Margot floundered a bit while searching for an answer. “It’s still early. You don’t want people to think you’re too eager.”

“Not one callback, huh?”

Margot pursed her lips. “Not one.”

“Well, that’s just fine, because I have a proposition for you.”

Margot’s instinct to say no right that second was quelled when the bank paperwork that showed her checking account balance caught her eye. “What sort of proposition?”

“We need an event planner here at the family business. We’d be willing to provide room, board, and a generous salary.”

“How generous?”

“Well, now, you’ve got to remember that the cost of living is much lower here as opposed to the big city,” Tootie cautioned.

“How generous?” Margot asked again, and Tootie’s blue eyes sparkled behind those reading glasses.

“Here, I’ll send you the compensation package the family put together.”

Another box popped up on Margot’s screen. She clicked on the file and grimaced at the salary, which was about one-quarter of what she’d made at Elite Elegance. “How much lower is the cost of living there? Also, where is ‘there’?”

“Did you notice that the package includes health insurance?” Tootie asked. “When does your coverage run out?”

“Soon,” Margot grumbled. “Also, I noticed you didn’t answer the question about location.”

“And I’m guessin’ from the packing boxes in the background that your lease runs out pretty soon, too. So really, I could see why you would want to stay where you would be homeless and at risk of huge medical bills, in a city where you could be mugged or run down by a taxi or have a windowpane fall on you from twenty stories up. That’s far preferable to coming down to Georgia, to a town where the crime rate is next to zero.”

Margot had never passed the Mason-Dixon Line, not even to Florida. Her mother had always insisted on family vacations to Lake Geneva, to New York, to France. Anyone could go to Disney World, she’d told Margot; Linda was trying to give Margot the world. Margot didn’t know how well she would function in a rural environment, much less a place where she would constantly hear the banjo music from Deliverance in the back of her head.

“But my life is here. My friends are here. I need to stay where the jobs are. And right now, that’s in Chicago.”

“So you lay low for a few months in God’s country, get to know your kinfolk, get that city air out of your lungs, and then relaunch yourself at people who will have forgotten your foul-up once someone else messes up worse. It will be good for you,” Tootie told her.

Margot stared at the offer. Tootie had thought of everything: financial compensation, meals covered, a clothing allowance, and health insurance. She’d even attached a picture of a small cabin on the edge of a lake, labeled housing. And another photo of a huge family posed in front of a lakeside dock. Tootie stood with an older man, holding his hand. Two couples in their fifties stood behind them next to a man with deep frown furrows barely touched by his lopsided smirk. His arm was thrown around a twentyish girl with purple-streaked hair in pigtails wearing a black T-shirt with a pink radiation symbol on it. Another couple stood on the far left, a man in his thirties with curly reddish-blond hair hugging a laughing blonde. The sun was setting behind the family and they looked so happy together, so at ease with one another. And it felt like a punch to the chest. These people didn’t miss her at all. They didn’t feel a Margot-shaped hole in their family, they’d just moved on without her. It shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. She’d spent a lot of time on visualization exercises so it wouldn’t hurt. And yet . . .

She cleared her throat. “The whole family put this together? Even my . . . even Stan?”

“Everybody,” Tootie said emphatically.

Margot skimmed the top of the document and caught sight of the letterhead, which read McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop.

“Funeral home? Wait, you run a funeral home? And a bait shop?”

“Well, it’s more of a full-service marina, but yes! For four generations now! You’re part of a Lake Sackett institution, hon.”

“Why would a funeral home–slash–bait shop need an event planner?”

“Well, the baby boomer generation is dropping like flies around here, so we’ve got more business than we can handle. We’ve needed to add another planning consultant for a while now, and when I saw your video and looked up your background, I knew you’d be perfect.”

“I’m an event planner. For major society parties, galas, charity balls, that sort of thing.”

“Well, a funeral is a kind of event. And some of the considerations are the same—timing, speeches, music, food, and such.”

“Oh, I just don’t think I could—”

Suddenly, the lights flickered out and her refrigerator died with a whine. Because she’d shut off utilities in preparation for the move to the condo that was supposed to have taken place the week before. But she had nowhere to go. And no health insurance.

She pursed her lips. “When can I start?”

AUNT TOOTIE—MARGOT was still refusing to call her that out loud, on principle—had been very helpful in organizing her immediate move to Lake Sackett. Using her above-generational-average tech skills, Tootie arranged for a local company to ship the few belongings Margot was bringing to Georgia. Tootie booked a flight from Chicago to Atlanta and then assured her that she’d have a car pick her up at the airport and drive her the two and a half hours to the lake country.

Tootie was just so efficient.

Three days later, Margot’s flight was taxiing down the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and she was clutching her cell phone to her chest. Margot had no idea what she’d face when she deplaned. She’d intentionally avoided reading up on the funeral home or her new base of operations because she was afraid that additional information would convince her to cancel the whole agreement.

Margot managed to find her bags without problems, but she couldn’t find the car service at the arrivals terminal. She scanned the little signs held by the handful of drivers near the exit. Not one of them said Cary. Maybe Tootie hadn’t sent anyone, she thought. Maybe she could take the airport transit system to the departures terminal and book a flight back to Chicago. She didn’t believe in signs, but maybe this was an omen. Maybe she wasn’t meant to meet her father’s family. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to live in Georgia. Maybe she should step back on the sidewalk before that enormous green truck barreling through the pickup area squashed her flat.

The battered early-model truck skidded to a stop in front of her. The side door was marked MCCREADY FAMILY FUNERAL HOME AND BAIT SHOP—LAKE SACKETT, GA in bold gold print.

Margot murmured, “Oh . . . no.”

Tootie hadn’t arranged for a car service. She’d sent a family member to pick Margot up. A stranger in a pickup truck. Everything inside of Margot seemed to tense at once. She’d thought she’d have at least a few more hours to pep-talk herself into the right frame of mind to meet any of her extended family—not to mention the little bottle of vodka she’d purchased on the plane to help prepare her to meet her father. But here it was, spewing exhaust at her, while the driver’s-side door opened. The windows were tinted too darkly to allow her to see the driver. Would it be Stan McCready? Was she ready for that? Was it too late to run back into the airport and hide behind the baggage carousel?

A man in his thirties—the man with curly reddish-blond hair from the family photo she’d studied relentlessly for the last three days—popped his head over the truck frame and grinned at her. His eyes, the same ocean blue as Tootie’s, glowed with amusement as he held up a poster-board sign that read WELCOME HOME, COUSIN MARGOT! in bright red glitter letters. The sign had been decorated with balloons and glittery star stickers. He waved it madly and yelled, “Hey!”

Definitely not her father, then. Margot stepped back, eyes wide, and in a move natural to someone who spent most of her life in a major city, pulled her purse closer to her body.

The bearded man scampered around the front of the truck and threw his arms around her. “Hey, cuz!”

“Who . . . are you?” Margot whispered as he squeezed her tight. His T-shirt smelled of citronella and sunscreen, a pleasant combination, but she generally liked her personal space bubble to be a little more . . . bubbly.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m Duffy McCready, your cousin. Well, my grandpa is your grandpa’s cousin, which always muddies the waters with third cousin and once-removed and all that. So we’ll just keep it simple and say ‘cousin.’?”

“And Tootie McCready sent you?” she asked, just in case there was some other half-wild McCready picking up his long-lost cousin at the domestic arrivals terminal.

“We’re so excited that you’re here,” he drawled in his heavy Georgian accent. “I’m sorry I’m late. I had this nightmare customer, refused to give up the search for Billy the Mythic Largemouth Bass. And then Atlanta traffic is always awful.”

“You’re still hugging me,” she noted.

“Sorry,” he said, detaching himself from her. He was a pleasant-enough-looking guy, thin but nicely muscled, with a cheerful face. He was dressed in well-worn jeans, work boots, and a plaid shirt over a forest-green T-shirt that read MCCREADY FAMILY FUNERAL HOME AND BAIT SHOP.

He attempted to take her Vuitton suitcase from her and she held firm to the handle, shaking her head. “I’ve got it.”

After he realized that she was not, in fact, going to let go of her luggage, he raised his hands in surrender. “Suit yourself. I just can’t believe I’m finally getting to meet you,” Duffy said, opening the passenger door for her. “Everybody’s excited that you’re comin’ back home.”

“Everybody?” Margot whimpered.

About The Author

 

Molly Harper is the author of two popular series of paranormal romance, the Half-Moon Hollow series and the Naked Werewolf series. She also writes the Bluegrass ebook series of contemporary romance. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Michigan with her family, where she is currently working on the next Southern Eclectic novel. Visit her on the web at MollyHarper.com.

You can find Molly at

 

 

 

 

Return of the Chauffeur’s Son
(Movie Magic Romances Book 1)
by Tara Lain

Blurb:

Luca McGrath may be returning to Napa Valley, California, as a promising chef with dreams of starting his own restaurant and winery, but his heart still lives with the bad-boy son of a billionaire, James Armstrong. Luca spent his childhood playing games with the golden boy of California society, so blinded by James he barely noticed the dark, quiet lure of his conservative older brother, Dylan Armstrong.
But now Luca’s home, and his own powers of attraction are enough to make James question his dedicated heterosexuality and his promised marriage to a wealthy and powerful businesswoman. The obvious attraction between Luca and James spurs Dylan into action—but he’s fighting a huge secret. While Luca dreamed of James, Dylan dreamed of Luca. When Luca gets caught in the struggle between the brothers and gets accused of culinary espionage he’s ready to chuck the fairy tale—unable to even imagine Dylan’s power to make his dreams come true.

Grab your copy at
Kindle | Amazon Paperback | Audible Nook | Kobo


Excerpt

That soft, deep voice slithered up his spine and filled
his brain with even more fog. He turned and watched Dylan amble toward him
across the grass, dressed in black jeans and a black long-sleeved T-shirt. He moves like a cat. “I’m not sure I’ve
ever seen you in anything but a suit before.”

“It does happen—occasionally.” Dylan half smiled.

“They should star you in a movie about a panther that
turns into a human.”

Cat People?”

 Luca cocked his head. “You know that old movie?”

 “Yes. Movies are a passion of mine.”

 “Seriously. I thought you just worked all the time.”

 “Surprise.” His light green eyes sparkled.

 Luca leaned back against the fence. “What are some of your
favorites?”

Dylan stepped to the fence and leaned against it too,
about two feet from Luca. Do I really
feel heat coming off his skin?
 Luca took a deep breath.

 Dylan looked up at the stars. “I love No Country for Old Men.”

 Luca barked a little laugh.

 Dylan glanced at him. “Funny?”

 “It’s just the stereotype of the powerful businessman
taking out his enemies wholesale. Sorry.”

 “Okay. Well, I love The
Notebook
.”

 “You’re kidding?”

 “Nope. I don’t think it’s a great movie, but I do love
the chemistry between the young couple.”

 “Yeah, the old couple’s story was even too sappy for me.”

 “I love Michael
Clayton
.”

 “No shit!” Luca chuckled. “One of the least appreciated
movies ever. Love that film.”

 “But I’ll see almost anything with Tilda Swinton in it.”

 “Me too.” He shook his head. How could they have so much
in common?

 “I also love My
Fair Lady
.”

 “Now you are joking.”

 Dylan smiled and gazed at Luca. “No, I’m not joking. I’m
gay. Remember?”

 The word felt like a karate chop to the windpipe. “Uh,
right. Sometimes I forget.”

 “So, how’s the new job?”

 “Uh, wonderful. They really want me to develop new
recipes and dishes. It’s what I love—along with wine making.”

 “Oh? You’re interested in viticulture?”

 Luca nodded. “Part of my degree is in winery management.”

 Dylan pushed away from the fence. “You’re a man of many
talents, Luca.”

 What the fuck did
he mean by that?

 Dylan strolled a few feet toward the house.

 Luca said, “By the way, I wanted you to know that James
invited my dad and me to your party and polo match this weekend.”

 That got his attention. He looked back with a crease
between the beautiful eyes. “Oh? When did he do that?”

 “Earlier tonight, when he and Nila had dinner at the
restaurant. She seconded the invitation and, since it’s kind of her party, I
figured it would be okay.” Did that sound like he had a chip on his shoulder?

 “Then I’m sure it must be okay.”

 Luca stared at the grass. “If you ever want somebody to
watch a movie with, just holler.” Crap!
He wanted to bite off the tip of his tongue.

 Dylan looked equally astonished. “I’ll keep that in
mind.” He turned and walked into the shadows.

 Why the hell did I
say that?
 The sound of the big house door opening and closing carried
across the quiet space.

 Dylan just looks so
lonely.

 And so damned
beautiful.